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Thursday, December 13, 2007

Returning Our Wounded to Health

In the spirit of dialogue and support, I invite (and sometimes accept) essays, poetry, stories and editorial on War, Peace, Tolerance and Our Soldiers. And about how they relate to one another. This is from Yvonne Perry, author and owner of Authors in the Sky Creative Services.

The Lancet is a highly respected British medical journal, which estimated in December 2006 (over a year ago) that 650,000 Iraqis have died as a result of the war that started in 2003. That’s almost twice the estimated 300,000 people killed by Saddam Hussein during his 23 years of brutal rule. More American soldiers have died in the Iraq war (3,008 and counting) than were killed in the 9-11 attacks in New York, Washington, and Pennsylvania (2,794). A growing number of conservatives openly challenging the Bush administration’s war tactics have agreed that a full military victory to establish democracy in Iraq is not possible. Senator John McCain said American troops in Iraq were “fighting and dying for a failed policy.”

Nevertheless, the war rages on and many of our loved ones such as my dear friend Carolyn Howard-Johnson’s son continues to fight on our behalf.

What about those soldiers who come home from war with serious injuries? What help is available to them? Blastocystic (embryonic) stem cell research might have produced a cure for spinal cord injury or at least given hope to soldiers and others who suffer with debilitating disease and medical conditions had our president not vetoed The Stem Cell Research Enhancement Act. He vetoed it not once, but twice. All the legislation wanted to do was change the law to allow the creation date of the cells produced via in vitro fertilization to 2007. This would only include blastocysts belonging to couples who no longer need them for reproductive purposes. These cells would have otherwise been discarded.

The Bush administration already allows federal funding for cells produced prior to August 2001. These NIH-approved cell lines that were supposed to have such great promise have been found to be unusable for research purposes because they were developed using animal feeder layers of cells. Being created in such a manner poses a risk of contamination with mouse viruses or proteins making these cell lines clinically unviable for human research or for treating diseases in humans. These cells are clearly inadequate to advance stem cell science, let alone to take that science from the lab to the bedside. Furthermore, there are only about 19 cell lines remaining and they do not represent a wide variety of genetic diversity.

Since 2001, scientists have developed techniques for establishing embryonic stem cell lines without using mouse cells. Researchers say that the Bush-approved lines are hard to work with, and most stem cell researchers won’t bother trying to grow new lines from them in the lab. The knowledge of how to work with the old lines is obsolete, and researchers who are new to this field do not have the “old” knowledge. Instead, they possess cutting-edge and up-to-date skills in working with newer lines that are easier to work with because they renew more quickly for reproducibility. These new lines would include diversity in race and genetic types. What is so significant about a date? If the U.S. is willing to fund research on a limited number of IV-Bs, then why not fund research on all of them? It could mean the difference in a US soldier being able to support his family. It could be your loved one who might be able to walk again.

We’ve wasted enough energy protesting something that might be used for the good of millions of suffering Americans. The war will hopefully be over soon and it is my prayer that all our soldiers are returned safely home. For those who do come home with paralyzed limbs, I pray that funding for blastocystic stem cell research will be released and that the technology will provide cures and treatments for those who have served our country.

Unfortunately, the very same President who sent our loved ones to war has prevented any chance for their recovery through the very promising stem cells derived from what might be considered medical garbage. Religious beliefs and the spread of false information by right-wing extremists should not stand in the way of humanitarian policy-making in the US.

The only way we are going to discover the potential contained in blastocyst stem cell technology is to allow research to take place, and that requires many funds that could be appropriated from government programs that are wasting taxpayers’ money.

The Bush veto and controversy over stem cell research is totally unnecessary. If only people knew the truth about the biology of the research. The misinformation out there bothered me enough to provoke me to write a book about it. My purpose is to educate folks so they can make their own decisions about whether or not to support blastocystic stem cell research. Even if you don’t purchase my book, I invite you to visit my blog
and learn as much as you can about this important science.

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Carolyn Howard-Johnson wrote the foreword for Eric Dinyer's book of patriotic quotations, Support Our Troops, published by Andrews McMeel. Part of the proceeds for the book benefit Fisher House. Her chapbook of poetry won the Military Writers Society of America's award of excellence.

1 comment:

Peaceful Compassion of the Source said...

As the mother of a son twice-deployed to Iraq, I deeply care about our troops. I am unsure if they are getting the care that they need when they return home. I KNOW they are not getting the emotional support they should receive upon their return. This needs to change.

I support our troops 100%. It's avshame that some don't see the difference in that support and the right to decent with the policies that put our young people in harm's way.

My son is home. He is now an Army Recruiter chosen by the Army to training and enlist others in the service. I am proud of him and very happy that he is on American soil.